I prefer the parables that emphasize mercy and forgiveness. Yet there seems to be no grace for this hapless servant who hid the talent entrusted to him. He says his piece to the master, and gives him back the coin, saying, “Here you have what is yours.” But the master is livid, saying:
‘You wicked and lazy servant! ...you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless servant, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Wow. This guy might have thought he was doing the right thing, the safe thing. But the safe thing is not what the master considers the right thing. He is not going to give this one a second chance, but will take the resources from him and give it to the one who already doubled his money.
Is this right? Is this fair? Is that how God regards us when we don’t use the riches we’ve been given? Well, God’s ideas of equity and ours often differ. If God wants to see God’s mission accomplished, and God has chosen to work through humankind, it makes sense to give resources to people who have the faith, the vision and the courage to implement them. If we feel impoverished as people or communities of faith, it’s not that we’re bad, or wrong – it may just be that we’re timid, risk-averse, inward-looking.
The problem with this last servant is that he operated out of fear. Jesus invites us to operate out of faith – again and again we hear him reward faith where he sees it. Faith and fear cannot coexist – the more space we give to faith, the less room there is for fear. And vice versa.
What is the greatest gift God has given us? According to St. Paul, it’s love. (I Corinthians 13) Today I suggest we read through this parable again, substituting the word “love” for “talents.” How that opens it up! We are also reminded in I John that, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Can we invest the love we have in loving others – which is about the most risky thing we can do in this life? Are we spending all we have in love? Or have we buried our love, or some of it, in a hole, covered over, "safe?" Do we bury our love in over-work or stress or sadness, afraid to risk losing what little we have?
That’s a thing about love – if we’re afraid of losing it, we already have. And when we give it away lavishly, we seem to find it multiplying in our lives. That’s how the “rich get richer” in the Life of God. That’s how we make enough wealth to provide for everyone – a wealth of love, enough to reclaim, restore and renew this world and every person it.